Wednesday, August 29, 2018


A picture is worth a thousand words.  How often have we heard that old saying?  But does that make a camera worth over 2 million dollars?  Apparently it does, at least as far as the favorite camera of LIFE magazine photographer David Douglas Duncan goes.  He is best known for his war photographs and the intimate images of his friend Pablo Picasso.

The WestLicht gallery of Vienna, Austria a while ago auctioned off a Leica M3D which used to belong to David Douglas Duncan.  It sold for $2.19 million which is a record for a commercially produced camera.

Leica M3D with attached Leicavit

Suzy Banks, a writer at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which has Duncan's archive, explained:

"By the time Duncan began photographing the war in Vietnam, he was shooting with Leica M3Ds (D for Duncan), which the company manufactured and designed especially for him, limiting production to four. The battle-hardened camera, curiously enough, also proved ideally suited for one of Duncan's subsequent and more intimate topics: Pablo Picasso and his family. With its soft-click shutter, this camera helped the photographer document the artist's private moments as unobtrusively as possible."
While the claim of this being the most valuable commercially produced camera in history is correct, the highest price ever paid for any camera is also for a Leica.  That title goes to one of the original pre-production Leicas, the so-called 0-Serie, which was sold for $2.79 million, also by WestLicht.

Leica O-Series Camera

For an extensive article on David Douglas Duncan go here.

For other articles on this blog please click on Blog Archive in the column to the right

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  1. Thank you Heinz, but what are the differences between the "normal" M3 and the D variant ?

    1. The M3D was specifically made for the needs of David Douglas Duncan. The main difference it that it was able to accept a Leicavit rapid advance. In addition, the 50mm Summilux lens was equipped with a non standard focusing lever. If you follow the link at the end of the article, you'll be able to learn a lot more about DDD's cameras.